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threatened and/or endangered

Red Mulberry Morus rubra


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Red Mulberry
credit: Rebecca-Lee/CCSA

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Family: Moraceae, Mulberry view all from this family

Description Morus rubra is native to eastern North America, from Ontario and Vermont south to southern Florida and west to southeast South Dakota and central Texas. The species is threatened by extensive hybridization with the invasive White Mulberry (M. alba), introduced from Asia.

Red Mulberry is a deciduous tree, growing to 10-15 m tall, rarely 20 m, with a trunk up to 50 cm diameter. The leaves are alternate, 7-14 cm long and 6-12 cm broad, simple, broadly cordate, with a shallow notch at the base, typically unlobed on mature trees although often with 2-3 lobes, particularly on young trees, and with a finely serrated margin. The upper surface of the leaves is noticeably rough, similar in texture to fine sandpaper, and unlike the lustrous upper surface of the leaves of White Mulberry (M. alba). The underside of the leaves is covered with soft hairs. The leaf petiole exudes milky sap when severed. It is hardy to -25° Celsius (USDA Zone 5).

The flowers are relatively inconspicuous: small, yellowish green or reddish green, and opening as leaves emerge. Male and female flowers are usually on separate trees although they may occur on the same tree.

The fruit is a compound cluster of several small drupes, similar in appearance to a blackberry, 2-3 cm long, red ripening dark purple, edible and very sweet with a good flavor. The first English colonists to explore eastern Virginia in 1607 mentioned the abundance of both mulberry trees and their fruit, which was eaten, sometimes boiled, by the native Powhatan tribes. It remains a widely used as a fruit in pies, tarts, cobblers and raw, in similar fashion to blackberries.

Habitat Canyons & valleys.

Range Plains, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Florida, Great Lakes, New England, Texas.